From the December 2007 issue of Entrepreneur

Getting your customers to come back for more and keeping them coming back is a frequently discussed topic in the marketing world. The most profitable businesses are built on this strategy, and I have a simple approach to this challenge that could change the way you look at customer loyalty.

Earning your second sale with a client has as much to do with the way you generated the lead, presented your value proposition and turned the prospect into a client as it does with any technique you employ after the sale.

Customer loyalty is often a natural byproduct of targeting the right client with the right solution and setting and exceeding their expectations throughout the sales or lead conversion process.

A lead conversion system relies on three distinct components:

1. Discovery: The central goal here is to find out if a prospect actually fits your ideal target market. If you've done a good job of marketing up to this point, you'll usually attract qualified prospects. Your lead conversion system should help you quickly assess each prospect so you can continue to meet the expectations you've set with your initial lead generation activity, which generally consists of a process or script used when a prospect calls or sends in a web lead.

2. Presentation: Whether it's across the desk or over the phone, most businesses need to present some kind of offer to the potential buyer. The Duct Tape Marketing tool of choice for this step is something I call "an internal seminar"--a quasiscripted presentation made during your initial client meeting. Everyone who presents to the potential customer should use the same presentation.

3. Transaction: The final leg of the lead conversion system is a planned "first purchase" transaction process--a well-thought-out and consistently executed way to take an order, deliver goods or execute an agreement. Put a little flair into this sometimes-awkward step in the relationship-building process, and you'll be well on your way to orders two and three.

Many entrepreneurs spend months chasing new customers, but they have no processes in place to make sure they meet and exceed expectations after they land a customer. When clients sign on with your company, show them how to get the most from the new relationship or product with a new-customer kit. That's right--your educational marketing approach doesn't end once you make a sale. Your new-customer kit should include the following information:

  • What was agreed on today
  • How we invoice for our work
  • A copy of our invoice
  • What we need from you to get started
  • How to get the most from your new product/service
  • How to contact us if you have a question
  • What to expect from us next

Nothing derails a client relationship faster than failing to set and meet your customer's initial expectations. Creating a series of documents and having a system that allows you to communicate this information demonstrates a level of professionalism that many businesses lack. This is a customer loyalty-generating system based on solid marketing principles that anyone in your firm can operate.

John Jantsch is a veteran marketing coach, award-winning blogger and author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide. Find out more at ducttapemarketing.com.